At least three people have died in Florida in traffic accidents connected to Hurricane Irma, American media are reporting.
Irma made land fall as a Category 4 Hurricane on Sunday, as it sustained winds of over 130 mph (200 kmh), and was followed by torrential rain, which is on pace for a record downfall in the history of Florida. Miami streets are flooded and power is knocked out to more than 1.6 million homes and businesses. Some 6.5 million people, about a third of the state’s population, had been ordered to evacuate southern Florida.Officials warned that Irma’s heavy storm surge – seawater driven on land by high winds – could bring floods of up to 15 feet along the state’s western Gulf Coast. It submerged the highway that connects the isolated Florida Keys archipelago with the mainland and small white-capped waves could be seen in flooded streets between Miami office towers.
The storm was one of the most powerful ever seen in the Atlantic and has already killed two dozen people in the Caribbean and pummeled Cuba with 36-foot (11 meter) waves on Sunday. Its core was located about 50 miles (105 km) south of Naples by midday. Marshal law was announced in Miami Beach from 8 PM to 7 AM, with authorities calling on citizens not to use vehicles and not to abandon their homes unless in the case of total urgency. Emergency services have also stopped moving in the hardest hit areas, with strong winds making any rescue attempt hard risky.
“There is a serious threat of significant storm surge flooding along the entire west coast of Florida,” Governor Rick Scott told a press conference. “This is a life-threatening situation.”
Scott said he has requested a major disaster declaration from President Donald Trump and warned that devastating storm surges will hit the western coast of Florida as Hurricane Irma churns northward. The White House on the other hand announced Trump was briefed on the situation, and that VP Mike Pence will visit the FEMA Headquarters. US President yesterday called on everybody to be careful, saying that any property damage can be fixed, but human life can not. He also pledged full support from federal government.
Irma is expected to cause billions of dollars in damage to the third-most-populous U.S. state, a major tourism hub with an economy comprising about 5 percent of U.S. gross domestic product. The country is still recovering from the hit of Hurricane Harvey, which devastated parts of Texas, with the city of Houston being the hardest hit.